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CNN NEWSROOM

Hurricane Sally to Make Landfall Tonight; Live Coverage of Joe Biden Speech on Veterans; Live Coverage of Press Conference as Breonna Taylor's Family Reaches Settlement Agreement. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired September 15, 2020 - 14:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[14:00:00]

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: We could see three to four months' worth of rain in just a matter of days with this storm, so you can already see the rain pushing onshore, the Florida panhandle, the Gulf Coast here.

This is pretty much going to be the same picture we see tomorrow. The storm is not going to move much farther north, and so you're going to see places with 10, 20, 25 inches of rain. You're also going to get that surge that we talk about with storms, hurricanes.

The storm, that's going to push north, push inland, all of that saltwater pushing north for several high tide cycles. Normally we get these storms, they come in, the surge of water comes in and they get out. But this is going to be a constant push of water to the north with this storm, with it sitting there for this long of a duration basically.

So you can see the spin right here, here's the storm still sitting just offshore, and it's most likely not going to make landfall until maybe midnight tonight through sometime mid-morning tomorrow, that's how slow the storm is moving.

Here are the radar estimated rainfall. And you can see this batch of rain that's basically to the south, this indicates 10 to 20 inches of rain has fallen just offshore. By the time we get into tomorrow, you can expect along the coast to be colored in bright pink, meaning we will have seen about 10 to 20 inches of rain along these coastal areas that have already seen four to six inches.

A lot of the rivers around Pensacola are already at moderate flood stage, and the storm isn't even close to making landfall yet because it's moving so slowly. So those rivers are going to continue to rise. You're going to see incredible flash flooding all along the coast here from Mississippi, Alabama, the Florida panhandle as well.

So here's the track, you can see slow, slow moving and then we finally pick up some forward speed by the time we get into Thursday. So all day today, tonight, tomorrow, we are going to see constant rainfall with this storm. We're not going to see rainfall totals like we saw with Harvey, but we're definitely going to see possibly historic amounts of rain for this particular part of the Gulf Coast. So here we go, here's the forecast. Rain, 10 to 20 inches, those areas

in bright pink. And then as we spread to the north, we could see four to six inches of rain easily well inland. We're also going to get the Category One hurricane-force winds, Brianna, for that duration as well, so do expect a lot of power outages, trees down of course, and then there's always a tornado threat with storms as well.

So a lot to unpack here, but I think the rain is going to be the biggest concern.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Feet of rain, it's astonishing. Jennifer Gray, thank you so much. We know that you are tracking this very carefully for us.

I want to go to CNN national correspondent Ed Lavandera. Ed, you're in Alabama. Tell us what is happening there, how concerned are residents?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we are in Bayou La Batre, Alabama, which is south of Mobile, on the western side of Mobile Bay. And the rain has been rather light but steady here for the last few hours, and the winds have been somewhat steady.

So it isn't the most dramatic scenes in terms of the worst of this hurricane, but the water and the water surge bring pushed inland is what we can show you. You know, here's the Waterfront Seafood stand behind me, and this is the inlet and the bayou here.

This is a commercial fishing village, you've got hundreds of massive shrimp boats here that have all been brought in away from the bay to protect themselves from the oncoming storm, so they're all docked up here, secured down. But you can see here just how quickly the water is coming up, already starting to move some of these boats around here in Bayou La Batre.

And this is obviously an area of great concern, one of the low-lying areas here in Alabama. We've been driving around here for the last few minutes, and we've seen not a lot of people who have evacuated this particular area, and this is as far south as you can go here in the state of Alabama, we're just not that far away from the Gulf of Mexico from where we're standing right now.

So this is one of those communities here in Southern Alabama, bracing for the onslaught of the rain and the torrential downpours that will be coming as Hurricane Sally continues to make its way onshore -- Brianna.

KEILAR: All right, Ed, thank you for that update from Alabama.

Let's pause for a moment. Joe Biden is speaking about veterans, let's listen.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, think of all the folks -- and you all know it -- coming home with unseen injuries, tens of thousands coming home with unseen injuries, post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury, mental health challenges. As a nation -- I've been criticized for this over the last 30 years

when I've said it, but -- as a nation we have many obligations to our children, to the elderly, to the poor, to those in need. But I believe we only have one truly sacred obligation: to prepare and equip our troops that we send in harm's way, and to care for them and their families when they return.

[14:05:19]

We owe our veterans the future of security and dignity that they've earned, and it starts by protecting the V.A., restoring the trust in the V.A. because the V.A. must be the premier provider of health care services to remote (ph), our veterans' overall wellbeing.

That's why the V.A. has more specialized knowledge about how to treat veterans' unique health needs beyond physical and mental than (ph) the private sector does by far. It provides a community of understanding and support, facilitates accountability for veterans' health and wellbeing as a whole that is absolutely vital for successful outcomes.

We have a responsibility to ensure that we're providing veterans with world-class health care they deserve in every situation. That means hiring more doctors and medical personnel and professionals to work at the V.A., including positions essential to veterans' health care: nurses and psychologists.

We need to offer these medical professionals the incentive to join the V.A. We need to pay them a competitive salary with the private sector. We also have to do more to build the pipeline of doctors and nurses, especially in rural areas. If you live far away from a V.A. center, it's absolutely essential that you can see a doctor closer to home.

That's why during our administration, President Obama signed the V.A. Access, Choice and Accountability Act into law in 2014. President Trump likes to say he passed the V.A. Choice, but just like everything else he seems to be saying, it's a figment of his imagination, it is a flat lie.

Now we need to keep working to implement the MISSION Act effectively and efficiently so that it works for all our veterans, while (ph) always making sure community care providers are held to the same high- quality standard as V.A. centers.

We're going to make sure our women veterans and our LGBTQ veterans get the service and respect they deserve from culturally competent providers. And critically, we're going to make sure that no veteran is locked out of treatment for conditions related to toxic exposure from burn pits or traumatic brain injuries they experienced in the line of duty.

We made that mistake with Agent Orange. As a senator, I fought for decades to help Vietnam veterans get access and help -- we were able to expand on it during the Obama-Biden administration. We can't let this be delayed again. Denying access because a vet could not prove a direct connection if you were exposed to Agent Orange was wrong, it's to be presumed if the ailment you have is caused by your exposure to Agent Orange, that you get treatment.

We've got to seriously tackle the mental health crisis we have, a suicide epidemic it claiming far too many of our veterans and service members. You know, one of the saddest things, my son came home after a year in Iraq, he was back as attorney general. The week before Christmas, he came over to the house and he said, Dad, I don't know what I'm going to do.

There was a Marine veteran who had been deployed a total of six times -- if my memory is correct -- who was in a relatively -- a modern upscale neighborhood, middle-class neighborhood.

And they get up in the morning, and they get out, and it's -- I think it was a Dodge Ram, started down the street in front of his house, which was no sidewalks. Saw a woman walking a dog, ran over her, killed her, killed the dog. Put her in the back of his pickup truck, took her down to I-95, right by where there was the -- all sand pile for emergencies, molested her, put her back in the truck.

Came home and called the state police and said, I just killed someone. It was a voice in my head saying I had to kill someone. I had to kill someone. Turned himself in.

You know, the latest data suggests that almost 600 veterans as well are dying by suicide every year, just here in Florida, 600 a year. It's devastating.

[14:10:02]

There aren't any easy answers to this, but we can do so much better than we're doing now. We have an obligation to do so much better. We have to help our heroes understand that it's an honorable thing to do and takes strength, to reach out and ask for help if they're suffering from unseen wounds. They're so accustomed to being asked not to ask for anything.

We have to end the stigma surrounding mental health treatment. When they do reach out, when they call the crisis hotline or walk into a V.A. hospital or visit a V.A. center for counseling, we have to make sure -- damn sure -- that there's no one turns them away. No one tells them they have to wait.

And part of it's also making sure the veterans feel a sense of security and connection and mission in the civilian world, as they did on active duty: better employment opportunities, meaningful career trajectories, educations like the ones student (ph) vets (ph) get here at Hillsborough Community College, which translate into greater opportunities for our vets, not just put money in the pockets of for- profit fraudulent outfits, because we've got to stop that. It all matters, and especially matters how their families are treated.

John Milton, the poet, wrote these lines, "They also serve who only stand and wait." Well, military families, husbands, wives, sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, they serve every single day, tending to their specific needs and unique challenges should never be an afterthought for us. It's a national security imperative. Fulfilling our promise to our veterans and our military families,

caregivers and survivors is critical to ensuring we not only meet our obligations, but that future generations continue to volunteer to serve.

My wife, Jill, she worked on this more than about anyone. During our administration, she and Michelle Obama teamed up and started an outfit called Joining Forces, a nationwide initiative to drive concrete commitments to support service members, veterans and their families and caregivers and survivors.

To help make sure teachers are equipped to better meet the needs of military children in their classrooms, help bring down some of the barriers because the vast majority -- vast majority of those kids in the school have no idea, little Johnny or Mary or Jamal is worried because his mommy or daddy is stationed in a foreign land.

It makes it so much harder for military spouses to find good jobs and build their careers, they have to change -- and we're working on that, working with leaders like Lauren Weiner, hiring our heroes --

(CROSSTALK)

KEILAR: All right, let's move now to Louisville, where there is a press conference happening, where officials have come to an agreement with the family of Breonna Taylor, who was killed by police in March. Let's listen.

MAYOR GREG FISCHER (D), LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY: -- with needed reforms to prevent a tragedy like this from ever happening again. That's why I am here today with the family of Breonna Taylor to announce that Louisville Metro Government has settled the civil lawsuit with her estate. As part of this settlement, Louisville Metro Government agrees to make several important policy changes.

First, to build stronger community connections between our police officers and the people they serve, we will, one, establish a housing credit program to incentivize officers to live in certain low-income census tracts within the city, and we will encourage officers to volunteer two paid hours every two-week pay period during their regular work shift in an organization in the community that they serve.

Next, as I've said before, we often ask our police officers to not only keep the peace, but to deal with challenges that society has failed to address from mental health to homelessness to substance abuse and everything in between. That's not fair to our officers, and it's not the right way to address these challenges.

That's why we will create a program to include social workers at LMPD so they can provide support and assistance on certain police runs where their presence could be helpful. Metro Council has already initiated funds in this activity.

And finally, we must have transparency and accountability for the work that our officers do. Good officers appreciate sunlight on their work, and we will take several steps to shine that light, including the following.

[14:15:06]

We will now require a commanding officer to review and approve all search warrants, affidavits in support of search warrants, and risk matrices before an officer seeks judicial approval for the warrant.

We're creating a clear command structure when executing warrants at multiple locations. We're adding additional protocols for money seized as evidence, expanding the random drug-testing of officers and we will negotiate with the FOP in 2021 to expand on the records that can be maintained in an officer's personnel files.

We have updated the process when a police officer is being investigated by our Professional Standards Unit and leaves LMPD before the completion of that investigation. Going forward, the chief's closing letter will state his or her findings based on the evidence that exists in the file at the time of the officer's separation from LMPD if sufficient evidence exists in the record to make such a determination or will state that insufficient evidence exists to make a finding.

If the nature of the complaint is significant enough to have reasonably resulted in the suspension of the officer, the investigation will continue gathering evidence to evaluate if additional officers were involved or other problems exist.

And finally, in order to ensure monitoring of any officers who may need additional training or other support, we will implement an early warning system that tracks all use-of-force incidents, citizen complaints, investigations and other key factors.

As part of its ongoing top-to-bottom review of LMPD, Hillard Heintz will evaluate the early warning system and recommend any needed improvements. This system will also be monitored through the soon-to- be-formed Office of Inspector General.

These are significant policy changes on top of many others that we have already made including those that are part of Breonna's Law as well as changes to policies on use of force and if tear gas would ever need to be used. In addition to these policy changes, this settlement includes a payment to Breonna's estate of $12 million.

I'm grateful for the hard work of my team and that of county attorney Mike O'Connell and his team and the cooperation and thoughtfulness with which the Taylor family and her attorneys worked with us to get to this point.

We're now going to hear from Lonita Baker, an attorney for Breonna's estate. Ms. Baker?

LONITA BAKER, ATTORNEY FOR BREONNA TAYLOR'S ESTATE: Justice for Breonna is multilayered. What we were able to accomplish today through the civil settlement against the officers is tremendous, but it's only a portion of a single layer. When officers cause the death of an individual, it is imperative that

we seek justice not only in the criminal system, but also in our civil system. That's when we hold people financially responsible. But it's important to know here that a financial settlement was non-negotiable without significant police reform, and that's what we were able to do today.

We sought forth (ph) as we went through negotiating the terms of this settlement and the reform, to engage police officers within the community, not just when they're dispatched to runs, but to get out to volunteer in those communities in which they serve, to get to know their communities in other settings. To live within their communities.

To dispatch social workers for when they're needed for mental health crises, to recognize at-risk behavior by officers implementing the early warning system, and to overhaul the system by which we execute search warrants that caused the death of Breonna Taylor on March 13th.

It's important for her family that they minimize the risk of what happened to Breonna Taylor happening to any other family in Louisville, Kentucky, and we're going to continue that fight beyond the city of Louisville, Kentucky and throughout this country to protect and reform police departments across America.

We recognize that this reform is not all-encompassing, and there's still work to be done. And we commit our time, our talent and our resources to continue to work with the community to fight the systemic racism plaguing our city.

We will continue to work on behalf and with the protestors who have put their freedom on the line to bring awareness to not just Breonna Taylor, but to the systemic problems facing our city. For we know that without their voice, we would not be here today.

[14:20:10]

Attorneys will ensure that prosecutors handling the case of protestors truly are administers of justice and not being punitive simply because those individuals chose to use their voice to shine a light on what was going on in Louisville, Kentucky.

We look forward to being a bridge from this community to our elected leaders to continue to push for change. We will continue to push for the mayor's office and our other elected leaders to put -- to implement policies put forth in a path forward which calls for community investment, the support for small businesses, affordable housing, closing the educational achievement gap, jobs and workforce development and as an overhaul to the criminal justice system. That document was produced and signed by over 50 organizations in the city, and it needs to be taken seriously.

We look forward to working with other grassroots organizations to ensure that we continue to hold our elected leaders accountable, but also to ensure that we continue to work with our elected leaders because we would not get the policy changes that we need, we would not get the legal changes that we need if we don't hold our elected leaders accountable. But in that same vein, we have to be willing to work with our elected leaders.

The beauty of what happened here today, the reform and the settlement -- and again, it's just a civil suit -- happens when we work together. So we do thank Mayor Fischer and his team for committing to the reform.

This is unheard-of in one of these cases, where you get a financial settlement and police reform. But again, it was important to us, to Breonna's family, to the lawyers involved and it was important for us to give that back to the community, which has been fighting so hard to save Breonna Taylor's name.

Lastly, as I stated when I started, justice for Breonna Taylor is multilayered. We are not going to stop our calls to hold the officers responsible for Breonna's death accountable. We're going to continue to put pressure on the attorney general's office to present a fair case to the grand jury, and we're going to wait -- we know that that indictment is coming from the grand jury. We have faith that that indictment is coming from the grand jury.

In addition to the attorney general's office, we must remember that the FBI is also doing an investigation into whether there were criminal civil rights violations leading to and after Breonna Taylor's death, so we're going to be looking forward for the federal indictment to come from the Department of Justice as well.

But it's important that people know that the city of Louisville, they're not the ones that can bring the charges. So today, what we did here was to do what we could do to bring a little bit of police reform. And it's just a start ,but we finished the first mile in a marathon and we've got a lot more miles to go until we achieve and cross that finish line.

FISCHER: Thank you, Ms. Baker.

We'll now from County Attorney Mike O'Connell, whose team worked diligently and thoughtfully to get us to this important agreement.

Mike?

MIKE O'CONNELL, ATTORNEY, JEFFERSON COUNTY, KENTUCKY: Thank you, Mayor, Ms. Palmer. May it please you today that we try to bring some assistance and help to you and your family.

Breonna Taylor -- you know, Breonna Taylor's life matters. Breonna Taylor's life continues to matter, as you see here today.

I've thought about Breonna's mother, Ms. Palmer, throughout everything that has led us today, the hole in my heart of losing a child as well is the greatest grief I've ever known in my life. And nothing can fill that hole.

I've tried to think how I would have reacted if Breonna was my daughter. Ms. Palmer has shown remarkable grace and courage these past six months. We did not wait to engage Ms. Palmer's counsel to discuss this case.

The independent investigations by the attorney general's office and the FBI are welcomed, but that was not going to delay the work toward meaningful changes in our city.

This is not simply a significant monetary figure, but as Ms. Baker just mentioned, it is a path of agreed action. The reforms were discussed and moved ahead by representatives from both parties. This work happened over many weeks with good faith and dedication by everybody that was involved.

Everyone around the table was dedicated to advancing those reforms for the whole community, Ms. Palmer. We tried our best to get a start. Much time and effort went into this, and I offer my appreciation to all involved.

[14:25:10]

Let me just finish by saying, today alone is not enough. My hope is this agreement is the next step in building a more just Louisville. A more just Louisville is the medicine we need to heal. Thank you very much.

FISCHER: Thank you, Mike.

Next we'll hear from Ben Crump, an attorney with Breonna's estate. Ben Crump.

BEN CRUMP, ATTORNEY FOR BREONNA TAYLOR'S FAMILY: Thank you, Mayor Fischer, Attorney Mike O'Connell, to the Louisville Metro Council, to Tamika Palmer.

As I sit and look at her and Bianca, my heart is filled because Lonita, Sam (ph) and I, we have become like family. And it has been so long getting to this day, where we could assure that Breonna Taylor's life wouldn't be swept under the rug like so many other black women in America who have been killed by police, marginalized.

So I am grateful to the actions of the city of Louisville today. And it is not just the historic $12 million settlement, which as I understand, is the largest amount ever paid out for a black woman in a wrongful death killed by a police in America.

And Lonita, I believe, it may be the largest amount ever paid for a black person in a police shooting, we're still trying to verify that. And it is certainly, Tamika Mallory, one of the largest amounts ever paid out for any person in the way of settlement in a police killing in America.

But the comprehensive reform that the Louisville Metro Council and Mayor Fischer put forth is equally important because this is about setting a precedence. When my great co-counsels from Kentucky, Lonita Baker and Sam Aguiar first talked to me about this black woman, who had been killed in her own apartment by this no-knock warrant, they were very concerned that nobody cared, nobody cared about this black woman, nobody cared about Tamika's baby. And that's when I started calling everybody I know to say that black

women's lives matter too. I remember calling Reverend Al Sharpton, saying, can I come on your show? I remember calling Rickey Smiley saying can I get on your radio show, your national radio show? I called Tamika Mallory. And Mysonne and her team at Until Freedom.

I called Senator Kamala Harris. I mean, I was saying to anybody who would listen, Breonna Taylor's life matters. And Senator Kamala Harris was the first national elected official to go on national television and to say her name, "Breonna Taylor." I called Tezlyn Figaro and Charlemagne (ph) and everybody to say, we cannot let her life be swept under the rug.

And from all of these individuals and so many others, especially the activists who came and was on the ground here in Louisville, saying that we won't let Breonna Taylor life be swept under the rug.

[14:30:05]